Monthly Archives: February 2012

No Bake Tiffin with Mixed Fruit

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I had some digestive biscuits leftover after making cheesecake recently. I was amazed that they had stayed relatively un-stale for so long so I decided to do something with them! I think that no bake cakes like tiffin are sort of de-constructivist; you take finished products (like biscuits and chocolate), break them up and re-form them into something new. How is that for recycling!

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Melt 50g hard butter, 13g brown sugar and 1tbsp honey in a pot over a low heat.

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Use a rolling pin or wooden spoon to bash up 120g of digestives in a bowl or a plastic bag. Roughly chop 75g mixed (dried) fruit and add to the digestives. Add the biscuits and fruit to the melted butter mix and combine.

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Press into a (lined) loaf tin. Lining the tin (if you decide to) is definitely the most fidgety bit of this recipe. I have a really nice loaf tin and I am terrified of scratching the inside so I lined it with greaseproof paper. Maybe I need to learn to stop being so precious about my baking tins! As the tiffin does not get baked in the oven I actually used sticky tape to stick the greaseproof paper into shape!

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Melt 100-150g chocolate. I melted my chocolate in a low oven (110C fan oven) as I have no microwave or appropriate heat proof bowl to create a double boiler. You can melt it whatever way you find easiest.

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Pour the chocolate over the tiffin in the tin. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Once the chocolate has set properly tip it out and slice. This is really easy if you have lined your tin!

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Enjoy with tea!

Easy as a piece of cake!

Emma

Ingredients (approx. 8 pieces)

130g digestives

75g dried mixed fruit (or currants if you don’t have mixed fruit)

13g brown sugar

1 tbsp honey

100-150g chocolate (depending how thick you like it!)

First Sprouts of 2012!

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Weee, my first seeds of the year have sprouted! The seeds have been in the soil for a fortnight now and I was beginning to think the pea shoots were not going to sprout; but here they are. The soil was a bit damp when I sowed them so some of the seeds got mouldy and in the end only about half of them have sprouted.

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The radish sprouted after one week and seem to be happy enough. They are leaning toward the window but it has been quite sunny recently and they are at a south facing window so they should be getting sufficient light.

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As the pea shoots and radish have sprouted I decided to sow a few other indoor crops today. There is now a pot of mixed salad leaves and a pot of basil on the kitchen windowsill. It might be a bit early for basil but we decided that it is worth a shot. Seeing as they will remain indoors and the weather is warm now they might be ok. And if the seeds don’t germinate successfully we can sow some more in a few weeks. Bring on the new growing season!

Emma

Mini Quiches- Ham and Red Onion with Balsamic

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As promised, here is my mini quiche recipe. This recipe has come about because we were given two muffin tins for Christmas; a 12 hole tin and a 6 hole tin. I like muffins but I thought we must be able to make some other things in the tins as well, Adam had the idea to try and make mini quiches and they have been a success.

First off, I don’t try to make my own pastry any more. I have tried a few times in the past but it has never been very good. So for this recipe I use almost a full packet of normal butter puff pastry from the supermarket.

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Dividing the pastry is not an exact science. I have 18 spaces in my trays so I cut the pastry in half, role it a bit using flour so it doesn’t stick to my rolling pin, then keep cutting it down until I have about 18 pieces. Normally there is a bit extra so I just smear the cut off pieces with some pesto and bake them alongside the quiches as an appetiser. I suspect that if we had another 6 hole tray we could probably manage to get 24 mini quiches out of one packet of pastry.

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The pastry does not have to fit the holes perfectly, unless you are a real perfectionist. Just roll it until it is large and thin enough then shape it into the muffin holes and fold the edges until it sort of fits! I have used my pastry brush to lightly oil the muffin holes before adding the pastry, but this is probably not really necessary.

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Once the tins are full you can put them in the fridge until you are ready. Sometimes I prepare them earlier in the day and don’t bake them until the evening, when I need to use the oven for something else.

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The filling can really be whatever you like; in this case I have taken some baked ham (leftovers from Sunday dinner), chopped it up and dropped some into each hole. I then softened some red onion in a pan with some oil for about 15-20mins. At the last minute I added a splash of balsamic vinegar and let it reduce a little. Divide the onion amongst the pastries.

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I have a fairly casual attitude towards the egg mixture in my mini quiches, I think there is more of a margin for error here than with a large quiche as they are small, so if they do not set perfectly it is not a total disaster. My mix is 4 beaten eggs, 200ml milk, 40g grated cheddar and lots of dried herbs (basil, thyme, oregano). Pour this between the quiches, they only need to be half full- just make sure to cover the ham and onion so they don’t burn.

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Finally bake at 180C (fan oven) for about 15minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out once they are set and the pastry is turning golden brown. Once you can handle them transfer to a wire rack to cool. You can eat them immediately with a salad or let them cool completely and keep them in the fridge for about 3 days. I usually freeze most of them and defrost overnight before eating them as a packed lunch.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Ingredients (18 mini quiches)

1 packet puff pastry

100g chopped cooked ham (approx.)

1 red onion

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 eggs

200ml milk

60g grated cheddar

1 tsp dried herbs (basil, thyme, oregano)

Planning and Buying Seeds for a Small Garden

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Planning what to grow in a small area is so difficult! I have been chasing myself around in circles for a couple of weeks now, trying to decide what is in and what is out. First I line up all the vegetables I love to eat and would love to grow, then I cut out everything I cannot grow in a container. Finally I try to make some attempt at a logical plan for the space we have which does not give us everything all at once. This last step is the most difficult by far; I have not mastered succession cropping yet and summer vegetables are much more tempting than winter ones!

I decided to buy my seeds from Real Seeds this year. They have a really nice selection including some unusual varieties. I love their descriptions and every time I look at their website I get really excited about the growing season ahead! I have limited myself to 6 packets of new seeds because I want to mix new varieties with some of the crops we grew last year.

I am not going to give away what is planned just yet; the seeds are ordered and as soon as they arrive I will get sowing and be sure to blog about it all! Here are the principles I used for this year’s garden plan;

1. Choose some early fruiting varieties which will be finished in time to get a winter crop in the ground. For example peas should be finished by mid- summer in time to let kale take over the space until January.

2. Don’t choose too many crops which take a long time to mature. Tomatoes, summer squash and peas are not all equal- some varieties will take up space in the containers for a lot longer than others.

3. Make sure to choose some pretty things- beans, tomatoes, edible flowers… Make sure that at least some of the plants you are growing are going to be pretty to look at.

4. Only grow what you will eat- I think this is even more important for small space gardeners than people with lots of space. It is great to try new things but if you are going to get kilos and kilos of purple tomatoes or yellow beetroot make sure you will be willing to eat them.

5. Try inter-planting. In a way this is not as easy in containers as an allotment or vegetable patch but it is still possible. Flowers can be sown below climbing plants, quick growing herbs can fill in gaps in space or time and radish should grow pretty much anywhere you can fit a few seeds in.

Impatiently awaiting the post!

Emma

Bento Lunchbox

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Look at this cute little bento lunch! This year we have been really good about making all our own lunches for work. It is a great way to save some money and time every day (I don’t want to spend my whole lunch break standing in a queue for a sandwich). The downside of taking your own lunch is that it can get boring sometimes. So I have been trying to keep it interesting by making it bento style.

Here is what we are eating this week; raw carrot sticks, homemade bread roll with leftover chicken (from Sunday roast), raw cucumber sticks, homemade mini quiche. This is a really nice balanced lunch and it is very filling. We usually bake the bread rolls and mini quiches one weekend and are sure to prepare enough for two weeks; then freeze most of them. That consolidates the effort a bit and we can just defrost as much as we need the night before. I will do another detailed post about making the mini quiches.

Emma

Sowing the First Seeds of the Season

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Today was one of those days when I just seemed to keep going and got tons of stuff done. It’s a shame those days are so rare! My greatest achievement of the day was to finally clean out the two planters on the living room windowsill and sow some fresh seeds in them.

Look at the state of the planters! I am so ashamed: I just left them like that for months out of pure laziness. Well today I finally picked all that dead stuff (spinach and rocket if you are wondering) and put it all into the bin (since composting is out of the question!).

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I added quite a bit of water to each planter box. At first I thought one lot of water would be enough for each but even after leaving it to soak in for an hour I was amazed when I turned the compost with the trowel to see that just below the surface was still bone dry! So I added lots more water and left it all to really soak in and re-hydrate the compost.

Once the compost seemed sufficiently moist I turned it all a bit with my trowel. Then I dropped pea seeds onto the long green tray and pushed them down with one finger. Radish seeds onto the terracotta coloured tray. It should be the correct time of year to enjoy some pea shoots and hopefully some radish too!

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I think they look a bit better now. I hope that a good dose of water and some fresh seeds will be enough to bring them back to life. The weather is still very cold here and that window is not very well insulated…

Emma

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Valentine’s Day Heart Shaped Eggs in Baskets

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Like so many people I am a bit sceptical about commercial holidays like St. Valentine’s Day. I don’t like being coerced into acknowledging my love but I also feel slightly cheated if I don’t get anything. Ah, so much pressure! So I decided that this recipe would be a happy compromise- something easy which I already happily make as a special treat for the man in my life, with a valentine’s twist!

Eggs in baskets are not very complicated. It is just a matter of balancing the time and heat so that the egg cooks through before the toast burns. I cut two thick slices of slightly stale bread. On account of baking all our own bread (in the bread machine) I was able to use thicker slices. Any sliced bread will work for this recipe. The only thing to remember is that if the bread is thinner the hole should be bigger, so it can hold all the egg!

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I cut two heart shapes out of the bread using a sharp knife. I don’t have any fancy heart shaped cookie cutter, I just did it by eye, maybe it helped that the bread was slightly stale already!

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Butter both sides of the bread (plus the little heart shaped cut outs) generously.

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When it comes to frying the eggs in baskets opinions differ. What I do is this; I place all the bread flat into the pan over a low to medium heat and fry one side first. When that side is crispy and golden I turn it all over.

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Then I pour one egg into each hole. I normally crack the eggs into a glass first to make this easier (thanks for the tip Adam!). Once the eggs are in the holes the heat is turned down low and I put a lid on the pan. I think a lid is the secret to perfectly fried eggs, sunny side up!

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Ok I admit it, my eggs do not look perfect, the white has cooked over the top of the yolk. I don’t know what happened, this is not an exact science… I guess I will have to make them again and again until I get it perfect!

Finally you can just supervise the eggs in baskets until they are done, maybe 5-10 minutes cooking time. Add a twist of salt and pepper and serve with a nice glass of orange juice! Yum yum, easy Valentine’s breakfast.

Emma

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Ingredients (for two eggs in baskets)

2 slices of bread

Butter

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste